How My Parent’s Helped Me in My Fight to Live Addiction Free
By Lara Frazier, Clean Recovery Centers
If it were not for my parents, I would not be alive today. I was in the depths of addiction for 5 years of my life and I didn’t see a way out, nor did I really want to find one. My mother and father are the reasons I found and sought recovery. They never gave up on me even when I told them I hated them and even when I wrote them letters about how they ruined my life, my parents didn’t give up. They never stopped loving me and they were able to balance the very delicate line between not enabling me and also showing up for me.
It is only through my recovery, that I have been able to see and understand how my parents compassion and unconditional love brought me back to life. I am one of the lucky ones to have grown up in a household filled with love. Every night, my mother and father would come to my room and tell me they loved me. It didn’t matter what went on that day, saying “I love you” to their children was one of their non-negotiables.
Throughout my four stints in rehab, my substance abuse counselors sought answers for why a girl like me had become so severely addicted. Some of them believed it had to deal with repressed memories. I was constantly asked if I had been molested as a child and if there was anyone in my family who I remember touching me inappropriately. Other counselors would try to find a DSM label for me, once labeling me with borderline personality disorder 33 days into treatment. None of these diagnoses or assumptions were true.
There was nothing that could have been done differently by my family to protect me from my addiction. However, the blame was placed on my parents many times by various professionals. And I believe there is still a small part in them that ask themselves questions like: “did we cause this?” “What could we have done differently?”
During my addiction, I remember my dad repeating the well-known Al-Anon phrase that is useful when dealing with other people’s addictions. ‘I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it. I can’t cure it.” Just as I have used mantras to cope and offer additional healing throughout my recovery, my parents used them as well.
One of the ironic facts about the dynamic between my parents and I, is that my parents are both clinical psychologists. They worked in the mental health field for years, often helping families cope with a loved one’s addiction. However, when it came to their own daughter having an addiction – most of their education around this issue felt useless to them. They didn’t know how to not enable, how to practice tough love, and how to set harsh boundaries. And for many of these things, I am grateful.
I remember a time in my addiction when I tried to commit suicide. I was living out of a seedy hotel in Downtown Hollywood. I was in drug-induced psychosis and I had been hallucinating and hearing voices for the last couple months. My paranoia increased as I stopped taking care for myself and had stopped sleeping and eating properly. I was ready to die. I could not escape the voices and life felt hopeless.
I swallowed half a bottle of pills and then put the bottle down. I thought about how my parents loved me. I thought about how they answered the phone the night before and that my dad said he was on his way to find me. Flashbacks of their love started radiating through me and instead of finishing the bottle of pills, I walked back to my hotel room to sleep.
By this point, most people had told my parents to stop answering my calls. They told my parents to start preparing their goodbyes and just be done with me. My parents had tried to help me so many times and my addiction only worsened every time I got out of treatment.
Instead of following the advice of the professionals, my parents listened to their own intuition. It was not in their nature to allow me to feel unloved. It was also not in their nature to give up on me. My parents held out hope for me when every person in my life had none. Because of their love, I have been sober for almost four years and I am thriving in my life.
I needed to know my parents loved me in order to live. I needed my parents to answer my call when I reached out for help. This was critical for me and this is my truth and I will not stop sharing this truth.
There is a concept in addiction treatment known as “tough love.” Some people need it. It wakes them up and it shocks them enough to start living differently and they change their behavior. However, there are other people who have been so broken down, that in order to heal, they need to feel compassion, love, and empathy. It’s been proven that compassion is one of the most helpful tools in treating addiction.
If you have ever searched for help for a loved one and have been told: “you can’t help an alcoholic or addict, unless they want help,” I am here to tell you, there’s a better way to look at it. Instead try answering this question: “If you can’t help an alcoholic until he wants help, what will get him to want help?” There are a variety of ways that someone living with an addiction could decide that they do want help.
As my parents learned in Al-Anon, they didn’t cause my addiction and they couldn’t control it. However, the way they handled my addiction allowed me to help myself. They did stop enabling me in many ways – for example by not giving me money and by not allowing me to live with them if I was using. However, they also showed me that there were people in my life who loved me and who understood that I didn’t choose to become addicted. They treated my addiction from the lens of compassion, and in doing so, they helped me realize that there was a reason to live and a reason to seek help. This is how my parents helped me in my fight to live addiction free.
Lara Frazier is a truth-teller, a sobriety warrior and a writer. She is a FIERCE believer in the power of owning our stories and is a strong advocate for addiction recovery. Lara shares a story of healing: in sobriety, through addiction, in life and love, and in all the other big huge moments of fear and magic that we rarely talk about, but we should. Find more of Lara’s work on her website at www.larafrazier.com or follow her on Instagram @sillylara.